Once upon a time, the sign of a great event was the fact that all eyes were glued to the speaker or presenter at the front of the room.
Thanks to technology, that’s not necessarily true. Even the most riveting speakers in the history of the world might be hard-pressed these days to look out at their audience without seeing at least a couple of guests with their heads buried in their phones, laptops or tablets.
So, if you can’t beat them, join them, as the old adage says.
Instead of trying to block or ban smartphones, consider using technology on your side as well. Working with your event venue, you may be able to easily incorporate technology that allows you to engage your smartphone-using attendees instead of being annoyed by them.
1. Let Them Vote.
If your audience is going to use their smartphones, you might as well put them to work engaging with the group. Using a voting app or website (there are many options available, either free or at a low price) can encourage active listening and participation.
These apps allow your attendees to answer a question and see their response indicated on the screen as part of a real-time poll. It eliminates the awkwardness of asking a question to the group and waiting for someone to raise their hand and answer, and it also increases the likelihood that phones will be used for something related to your presentation.
One caveat though: To use these technologies, you’ll need to make sure your event space has accessible Wi-Fi as an option. If you’re using one of our venues, we have free and fast Wi-Fi at all our conference and meeting locations.
2. Don’t Let Them Become an Elephant in the Room.
If you’re the speaker or the person leading the meeting and all those devices really bother you, let your team know. They’ll decide accordingly whether to respect your wishes.
If you want smartphone engagement, however, you should also let them know. Encourage them to have their phones and devices out, taking notes and actively engaging through the channels you’ve set up.
Either way, it’s important that you express your wishes or concerns. There are certainly times when devices are appropriate, like in brainstorming sessions or in seminars that require a deep-dive into data. In other discussions, like a senior leadership team seeking consensus on cultural change, a smartphone or device can be a distraction and can add to the tension between participants.
3. Adjust your Mindset.
It’s easy to think that the people out there who are focused on their phones are just not listening and paying attention. However, the exact opposite might be true.
Phones and tablets aren’t just single-use devices. A conference attendee who spends your speech typing away might not be answering emails or updating their resume.
Instead, it’s equally likely that they could be using their device to take notes on your riveting presentation, or that they might be using social media to share tidbits of information with the wider public.
4. Speaking of Social Media, Consider Using It To Make Your Presentation Interactive.
If you can handle it without getting thrown off-kilter, you can project a live stream of a social media channel (Twitter works well for this) onto a big screen alongside your presentation.
When you provide a hashtag to use regarding your presentation, people can share their impressions and opinions in real-time. And, it gives you a chance to encourage additional engagement as well, because you can ask for questions via this channel.
This approach can work well when your group includes (as almost every group does) people who might be a little bashful about raising their hand or waiting for a microphone in a crowded space. Giving them the on-screen option can make it easier for them to submit a question when it comes to mind, and can allow you to encourage a wider diversity of responses and engagement.
5. Make Those Smartphones a Hub for Information.
If you’re hosting an event with a large number of attendees, you may want to invest in an app that provides your guests with pertinent information, such as maps, agendas and contact information for fellow conference attendees.
Using technology for this purpose can save you the headache and the environmental waste that comes with creating thousands of paper copies in advance of the event.
Even if your event’s not large enough to merit a dedicated app, you can still use your devices as a way to keep attendees connected. For smaller corporate leadership events or executive retreats, you can consider a Slack group as a way to compile notes in real-time, assign tasks or even schedule plans to meet up for dinner.
Smartphones don’t have to be the bane of an event planner’s existence.
A smart speaker takes everything, even mobile devices, into consideration when planning an event or presentation that will engage and delight attendees and participants. If you’re wondering how you can use smartphones at your event, get in touch with one of the event planning professionals at our many hotel and meeting locations; they can guide you to find the space and the tech options that will work perfectly for your event.